Out of Our Past

Mystery Photo

Posted:  Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 8:45am

Harold Clifford, region superintendent of schools from 1925 to 1956, had every school classroom in the region photographed in 1938, complete with teacher and children. None of the buildings exist now as schools since all small village schools were slowly discontinued in favor of consolidation, or they were replaced in the cases of Southport and Boothbay Harbor. Many were sold and moved to other locations. The schools in 1938 were: the Harbor's West Harbor, east side, and west side; Southport's east side, west side, and Cape Newagen; Boothbay's Boothbay Center, Barters Island, East Boothbay, Back River, and Back Narrows. Traditionally there were more than 22 schools, which had dwindled to those above by 1938, thanks to motorized transport.

Over the years we've identified most of the children in the many 1938 photos. However we have two different 1938 photos that are both labelled third and fourth grade in a Harbor west side classroom. Many schoolrooms, such as mine in East Boothbay, had two to three grades. So while a grade was being taught, the other grade(s) could read, study for quizzes, do work sheets, listen to other grade's lessons, or fool around surreptitiously. Teachers had a complicated school day, teaching some in the room while riding herd on all.

The Harbor's west side schoolhouse is now the Christian Science church on Oak Street. One of the two identically identified west side photos shows children who were all named by an informed good citizen years ago, and I know they are Harbor names—no debate on that photo. In addition, recently Virginia Nelson Brewer identified almost all the west side school children in a photo of the 1938 fifth grade as having attended there with her then. However, she couldn't identify any kids in the mystery shot, implying to me they weren't Harbor kids at all and certainly not the third and fourth grade on the west side.

That mystery photo is shown here. Whenever I see possibly red-haired boys, such as those at the head of the rightmost rows, I think about McKowns. But that's mostly an East Boothbay family. . . . We seem to have no 1938 Back River school classroom photo. Could it be that? This photo is mislabelled and we'd like to fix it.

We hope someone can identify some of the children or the teacher. If you can, please call the historical society at 633-0820, or come in the museum at 72 Oak Street, Boothbay Harbor, Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's best to come on Saturday when visitors can talk to those in the reference room. We'll have the three photos mentioned above out on view.